Developing El Nino Could Suppress Atlantic Hurricanes

July 9, 2009

El Nino weather anomaly has developed and it may not be as strong as the killer which struck more than a decade ago, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.

The CPC, an office under the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said in a monthly update “conditions in the equatorial Pacific transitioned from neutral to El Nino conditions.”

It said current trends favor development “of a weak-to-moderate strength El Nino into the northern hemisphere fall (of) 2009, with further strengthening possible thereafter.”

This El Nino is developing just as the world struggles to emerge from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929.

The last severe El Nino in 1997/98 killed more than 2,000 people and caused billions in damages to farms and infrastructure in countries from Indonesia to Peru.

El Nino means ‘little boy’ in Spanish. It causes an abnormal warming of waters in the Pacific which in turn would unhinge weather patterns in the Asia-Pacific — spawning drought in Australia and Indonesia while causing floods in Peru and Ecuador.

The 1997/98 El Nino struck in the middle of the Asian financial crisis which roiled financial markets.

Some forecasters have said this El Nino may have played a role in delaying the arrival of annual monsoon rains in India which play such a critical role in its farm economy.

Drought would pose a major risk to Australian wheat production and damage palm oil output in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The CPC report said El Nino may also “help to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity by increasing the vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean.”

Storms sweeping in from the Atlantic or in the Gulf would threaten oil rigs in the area and menace crops from Mexico, the Caribbean and into the southern United States.

(Reporting by Rene Pastor; Editing by John Picinich)

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